When We Were Kings (1996)

LEON GAST

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

USA, 1996, , .  Cinematography by , , , , .  Produced by Leon Gast, .  Film Editing by Leon Gast, Taylor Hackford, Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte, Keith Robinson.  

This documentary chronicles the events surrounding the famous “Rumble In The Jungle”, the historic boxing match between  and  that took place in Zaire in 1974. Leon Gast was on hand to film the entire match as well as gather interviews and get hold of stock television footage, all of which he had to sit on for twenty years until he was finally able to complete this feature film. Seamlessly edited and a perfect time capsule of sixties culture, especially in terms of the effects of civil rights, this film could well afford a lot more substance than it has; having not been able to make the film for twenty years gave Gast plenty of opportunity to include more than just the match itself, but also to make a record of its effect on generations afterwards which he doesn’t do enough of. The talking heads who actually are featured (, , , among others) are underused, though thankfully Ali’s personality is always enough to fill up a screen for any amount of time.

The Criterion Collection:  #998

Academy Award:  Best Documentary Feature

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